There was an interesting headline in the Wall Street Journal, trumpeted on the Drudge Report as well. It said: "Liberals Make Big Comeback in 2015, Poll Analysis Finds." I mean, whoot, right! (I'm assuming everyone reading this is as progressive as I am :-) )
The only problem was...the premise didn't exactly ring true to me. Yes, liberals have been surprisingly visible and vocal in the pre-pre-run-up here to the 2016 election, with the enthusiasm for democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders and with Hillary Clinton clearly drifting left. But -- maybe with LL Cool J ringing in my ears -- I'm not sure if we can it a comeback (I mean, we've been here for years!)
Then I read the story and indeed it's not, in my reading, what the headline implied. Here's an excerpt:
A new analysis of Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll data finds a marked increase in the share of registered voters identifying themselves as liberals, and an even bigger drop in the share saying they are conservatives.
In three national polls conducted so far in 2015, the analysis found that 26% of registered voters identified themselves as liberals — up from 23% in 2014. At the same time, the share of voters identifying as conservatives dropped to 33% from 37% in 2014.
The analysis by GOP pollster Bill McInturff, who looked at survey data from 2010 to 2015, found that the biggest ideological shifts came among women, young people, Latinos and well-educated voters, as well as people in the West and in cities.
Two things. First of all, how people label, or brand, themselves political is only partly a factor of the things they believe. In the grim aftermath of the 1960s culminating in the Reagan era, the right succeeded in making "liberal" a dirty enough word that many voters didn't want to identify as "liberal" even as they held positions on the center-left, if not the actual left of the spectrum. Most Americans have long supported a higher minimum wage, backed the key provisions of Obamacare (recoiling only at the idea of something called "Obamacare"), and wanted stricter environmental regulations on business. Finally, after all these years, it's acceptable to call yourself a "liberal," so is it a comeback if it didn't really go away?
The other thing is that -- as the article notes -- Americans calling themselves "conservative" has actually dropped faster than people calling themselves "liberal" has risen. Wasn't that the real headline of the story, that the right-wing brand is, as the saying goes, in the toilet? Look at the people that a GOP pollster found are most likely to ditch the conservative brand:
Women, who've seen GOP legislators from coast-to-coast abandon other policy issues to make robbing women of their reproductive rights the No. 1 priority. Latinos, branded as "the other" in the right-wing jihad against immigration. Well-educated voters, who see the brute hostility in the GOP's loathing for science -- reaching its apex in the denial of climate change -- and for higher learning. City residents, who can't get Congress to fix their crumbling bridges and railroads.